How to Check 401k Balance (4 Easy Methods)

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How to Check 401k Balance

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With the average American changing jobs every 4.2 years, it can be difficult to keep track of all your retirement plan balances. Fortunately, there are several ways that workers and retirees can use to check their 401(k) balances.

You can check your 401(k) balance online by logging into your 401(k) account, calling your 401(k) plan provider, through your employer’s website, or checking your latest 401(k) statement.

Why it is important to check your 401k balance

As you age and approach the full retirement age, you should monitor your 401(k) balance for the following reasons:

Adjust contribution rate

As you age and move up the career ladder, you are likely to get better pay, and this means you will have extra income that you can contribute to your retirement plan. If it’s been some time since you adjusted your contribution rate, checking your balance can help you decide how much more to contribute to help you reach your retirement goals sooner.

Monitor investment options

Checking your 401(k) balance can help you figure out which investments are performing well, and which are not. If some investments are bringing a good return, you should maintain the asset allocation, and diversify your portfolio by reallocating the poorly performing funds.

Rebalance portfolio

Checking your 401(k) balance also allows you to rebalance your portfolio. Market volatility can affect the performance of your 401(k) investments, and you should rebalance your investments every once in a while to make sure they reflect your risk tolerance and retirement goals.

If you stay for too long without rebalancing your portfolio, you may miss out on a lot of opportunities to make money. Investment options may also change, making it expensive to continue holding them in your portfolio. Rebalancing your investments allows you to profit from market movements, and reallocate your funds to potentially high-return investments.

How to check your 401k balance

If you have a 401(k) with your current employer and several old 401(k)s out there, you may have several options to check your 401k balance.

Check 401(k) balance online

The easiest way to check your 401(k) balance is by logging into your 401(k) account on the 401(k) provider’s website. You will be required to enter your username and password; if you have forgotten any of these credentials, you will be able to reset them on the login page.

Some 401(k) providers also allow 401(k) account access via mobile app. Check if your plan provider has a mobile app on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, depending on the device you are using.

For old 401(k) accounts, you will only be able to access your old 401(k) money if you left a balance of at least $5,000. If your balance was below $5,000 (but more than $1,000), it was likely rolled over to an IRA that your former employer knows about. For balances below $1,000, likely, you were automatically cashed out and the balance sent to you.

If you don’t know where your old 401(k) plan is, you can use your Social Security Number to locate your old 401(k) accounts. 401(k) finder services offered by Beagle can also help you locate your 401(k) by providing some information about yourself.

Check 401(k) balance via phone

You can check your 401(k) balance by calling your 401(k) provider’s customer service number. Usually, you will find the 401(k) provider’s phone number on their official website, and they will also indicate their working hours when they are available.

Remember, when calling customer service, you will be required to provide your personal information to verify your identity. Some of the information you may asked to provide includes your SSN, full name, current address, employment ID, and name of your employer. Once this information has been verified, you can request a confirmation of your 401(k) balance, which can also be mailed to your address or via your email.

If you don’t know your 401(k) plan provider, contact the HR department and ask for information about the current plan provider that manages the company’s 401(k) plan. You can also look up the contact information of the plan provider on the DOL’s Form 5500 database.

Employer’s website

Apart from accessing your 401(k) account via the 401(k) provider’s website, some employers allow employees to access their 401(k) accounts via the employer’s official website. This allows employees to check their account balance easily without having to go through the 401(k) plan administrator’s website.

To access your employer’s website, you will need your employer ID and password; you may be able to reset any of these details if you forget them.

401(k) statement

As long as your address is current, you should receive a paper 401(k) statement in your mailbox indicating your balance and recent account transactions, including contributions, withdrawals, etc. If you have opted to instead receive mailed statements to your email, you will receive periodic statements, either monthly, quarterly, or annually, and you can view your 401(k) balance.

How often do you need to check your 401(k)?

While knowing your 401(k) balance is important, it is not something you should do every day or every week. Experts recommend checking the 401(k) balance at least 2 to 4 times in a year.

Since 401(k) is a long-term retirement investment, you should not check your balance too often, since normal market movements could appear significant in the short term and influence you to change your investment strategy. The ideal time frame for checking your balance is quarterly, bi-annually, or once a year to know how your portfolio is performing and confirm whether or not you are on track to achieving your retirement goals.

What to do with your 401(k) balance

So, once you have successfully checked your 401(k) balance, what happens next? Here are some of the options you might have.

Do nothing

If you found a 401(k) left with a former employer, and you are happy with its growth, and fees, you can let the money continue growing as you figure out what to do with it.

Cash out

Once you have recovered a lost and found 401(k) account, you may consider cashing it out to meet an urgent financial need or to make a large purchase. While this may be an option, you should consider the tax implications of the withdrawal- you will owe income taxes and a 10% early withdrawal penalty if you are younger than age 59 ½.

Roll over to your new employer’s 401(k)

If your new employer offers a 401(k) plan, check if it accepts rollovers from other 401(k) plans. If rollovers are allowed, you can contact the plan administrator of your old 401(k) to request a direct rollover to your new 401(k). This way, the money will be transferred directly to your 401(k) without getting your hands on the money.

Combining your 401(k)s into one 401(k) account makes it easier to manage your money, and you get a bigger pool of funds to allocate to the high-performing investments in your portfolio.

Roll over to an IRA

If don’t like your current employer’s investment options, you can choose to roll over your old 401(k)s to an IRA, which offers a wider pool of investment options. IRAs are not tied to any employer, and this gives you more flexibility in deciding how to invest your money. You can also find investments that charge lower fees than 401(k)s.

If you don’t have an IRA, you can open one with a brokerage or other financial institution. Also, you will have a choice between a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA. A traditional IRA allows you to maintain the tax-deferred status of the 401(k) funds, while with a Roth IRA, you will be required to pay income taxes when you rollover the 401(k) into the account.

FAQs

What do you need to check your 401(k) balance online?

You will need to enter your username and password on your 401(k) provider’s website to log into your 401(k) account. In some cases, you may be required to answer some security questions to verify your identity.

Is there a penalty for checking your 401(k) balance?

You won’t pay any penalty to check your 401(k) balance. It is free to check your 401(k) balance at any time.

Can I cash out my 401(k) balance?

If you have recovered an old 401(k) with a substantial balance in it, you may decide to cash out the entire balance. However, keep in mind that you will pay income taxes, and a potential 10% early withdrawal penalty if you are below age 59 ½. 

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